Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (Old West Series #1)

This is my first Beverly Jenkins novel and going in all I really knew is that Jenkins is the Queen Bee of Black historical romance.This new series starts off with Eddy Carmichael, a young cook who heads west with nothing but her cooktop and dreams of owning a restaurant.

She gets almost there  by legit relying on "The kindness of strangers" until one of those strangers leaves her stranded in the desert.

Eddy is rescued by a White republican and well known saloon owner, Rhine Fontaine. Rhine has been good to the black community of Virginia City but what no one knows is that Rhine Fontaine is a former slave, passing as white.

I think it goes without saying the real star of this book is Jenkin's version of 1870's Virginia City, NV a small town filled with a colorful cast of characters.

Virginia City is far from a romancelandia-utopia when it comes to post-Civil War race relations. The struggle is actually real for Rhine. While he gains the dignity and power he coveted when he was his father's slave, he begins to realize he has lost the ability to have a real community and family. He can't fully participate in black life and he feels like an outsider in the white world. Honestly one of the reason I kept reading this book because I was wondering how an HEA could work when Rhine has so much against him. I found the ending bittersweet in a way.

I think I would have wanted to see more courtship between characters which I imagine was a challenge considering the big wall between them. The steamy scenes felt like they were thrown in because it's a romance and were not well incorporated in the story. I don't generally read American Historical but something about this reminded of the mid 1800's historicals I read as a kid. You know about the good ol' days when oranges were a BFD.

Speaking of oranges, this book is also about food and what good food can do for people. Eddy enchants the town with her cooking and there is a wonderful sense of community whenever people are gathered to eat. I think it's interesting to note that while Rhine is passing he can't sit down and eat with Eddy. I think Jenkins uses this to set the tone the novel.

Also, it turns out Rhine first appeared in Jenkins 1998 book Through The Storm which explains a lot when people from that story pop up. I would love more insights on the other characters in this book; am I going to have to wait 18 years ? *ARC received from Edelweiss

Side Note
I kept having a hard time picturing Rhine because that cover model's hair is nothing like Rhine's. But K.C told me about Wentworth Miller, a mixed-race actor who stared in  Prison Break as a white character. His green eyes and dark hair make him a good picsipration for Rhine.

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